There’s plenty to love about Twitter, and the wisdom of people like Tim Keller is one example.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. — John 10:27
Erik Raymond has written a great post today and a great reminder that we can never make Jesus more appealing than he is. I cannot take Jesus and make him clearer and more appealing than he is in the Bible. As I read through John 10 today, I saw Jesus boldly make claims that offended his hearers and led them to want to kill him. I thought, “If Jesus himself can be rejected by some of his listeners, what makes me think I can do better?”
It took a miracle of God to break through my own resistance to him when I became a believer. He made what was heart of stone become alive to him and changed my passions. Did that mean that others didn’t play some part? By all means, no! But the final, saving action was done by God alone and I responded to that work of God.
We believe because we hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow. The fact that Jesus preached his message while he was on earth and we have the Bible points to the fact that, while we are saved by God alone, there are means he uses to bring us to that point. To those who don’t believe, this is all foolishness, but the hope is that it will one day be clear to them through Jesus Christ.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. — I Corinthians 1:22-25
The tragedy here in this country, in particular, is that there are many people who sit in churches or have had just enough church experience that they feel they are right with God when their hearts are anything but that. Matt Chandler talks about this in the video below.
There are three weeks until Easter, when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his sin-atoning death on the cross outside of Jerusalem approximately 2,000 years ago. Let us not forget or slight the magnitude of what that death means for all of us. From John Piper, pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis:
[W]e see this precious wrath-removal in John 3:36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). This means that when John says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” he doesn’t mean that every person in the world is saved. He means every person in the world—Jew or Gentile—will be saved if they believe in Jesus and follow him. If they believe, their sin has been taken away by the Lamb. If they believe, God’s wrath has been removed by the Lamb.
There is no race, no nationality, no ethnicity, no socio-economic status excluded. To as many as receive him, who believe on his name (John 1:12), their sins are taken away (John 1:29; 1 John 3:5) and the wrath of God is removed (John 3:36; 1 John 2:2) and they are made the children of God (John 1:12) and given eternal life (John 3:16).
These are good words to remember as Easter approaches and we think about the magnitude of what Christ did for us and does for us when we trust him with our lives. This is what John Piper is exhorting his family with, and I want to remember in my life as well:
Our temptation is to think that the gospel is for beginners and then we go on to greater things. But the real challenge is to see the gospel as the greatest thing—and getting greater all the time.
The Gospel gets bigger when, in your heart,
* grace gets bigger;
* Christ gets greater;
* his death gets more wonderful;
* his resurrection gets more astonishing;
* the work of the Spirit gets mightier;
* the power of the gospel gets more pervasive;
* its global extent gets wider;
* your own sin gets uglier;
* the devil gets more evil;
* the gospel’s roots in eternity go deeper;
* its connections with everything in the Bible and in the world get stronger;
* and the magnitude of its celebration in eternity gets louder.
For those in protestant circles, many have had the opportunity to share their testimony before they were baptized. When you think about it and, if you’ve ever heard one given, it often starts with the person and how they came to faith. But that isn’t the whole story, whether they realize it or not.
In this message to a Children’s Desiring God conference, John Piper explains that it goes much further than an individual’s own life if you want to explain how they were saved. It’s obvious, really, if you believe what the Bible says. Since no one saves himself, you can’t tell your story without going back to the Person who saved you, namely Jesus Christ. And, if you do that, it effects what kind of person you will be and how you live your faith.
So, you’ve been saved. What does that mean for your everyday life? Should it mean anything? John Piper explains that it must.
Kirk Cameron agrees.
There is a divide in this country, and you can almost discern it based on the question, “How do we help the
poor?” Politically, there is a divide for sure, but even within the church there is divergence on this question. To be sure, the Bible instructs us that we are to care for the poor, but even that point is debated as one group emphasizes responsibility and another justice.
Because faith without works is dead, we need to understand just how it is we should care for poor and downtrodden in our society. Tim Keller, writing at Thermelios, has written a thorough and helpful essay on the subject, “The Gospel and the Poor.” Keller is senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, N.Y., and an adjunct professor of practical theology at Westminsters Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Among the books he has written are “The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism” and “The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith.”
In his essay, Keller explores from the position that the church is commanded to help the poor, yet this is not the primacy of the gospel:
So what does it mean to be committed to the primacy of the gospel? It means first that the gospel must be proclaimed. Many today denigrate the importance of this. Instead, they say, the only true apologetic is a loving community; people cannot be reasoned into the kingdom, they can only be loved. “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary.” But while Christian community is indeed a crucial and powerful witness to the truth of the gospel, it cannot replace preaching and proclamation. Nevertheless, the primacy of the gospel also means that it is the basis and mainspring for Christian practice, individually and corporately, inside the church and outside. Gospel ministry is not only proclaiming it to people so that they will embrace and believe it; it is also teaching and shepherding believers with it so that it shapes the entirety of their lives, so that they can “live it out.” And one of the most prominent areas that the gospel effects is our relationship to the poor.
It is a lengthy read, but well worth your time. For conservatives, it is a good reminder that merely proclamation of the gospel while failing to help the poor and needy shows a lack of understanding of the gospel. For liberals, it is a good reminder that giving aid is not an end in itself.